Urgent Clarity Needed on Prisoners & Vaccination Programme
The Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) has called for the Department of Justice NI and the South Eastern Health Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) to urgently clarify the status of prisoners in relation to implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. Spokesperson for prisoner union IWOC, Elizabeth Flynn said "Union members have reported being subjected to a number of unfolding lockdowns within the prison system, however they have been provided with no clarification as to the reasoning behind these actions. Lockdowns in the prisons are having a damaging impact on prisoners’ mental health by severely limiting the time they have out of their cell to engage in exercise, education and socialising.
"Prison lockdowns are also impacting prisoners’ relationships with families and friends by preventing regular and meaningful contact. Prisoners, their families nor their legal representatives are being kept informed to why restrictions are being imposed. They are being kept in the dark and have a right to know why they are being subjected to increased security measures.
"These actions bring into focus the need for urgent clarification by both Justice Minister Naomi Long and health minister Robin Swann to immediately clarify how prisoners will be included in the roll-out of the vaccination programme. Prisons that facilitate the spread of Covid-19 and many prisoners are high 'at risk' and vulnerable due to their age and pre-existing health conditions. It is therefore essential that these high risk and vulnerable people are offered the Covid-19 vaccination as a matter of priority.
"IWOC demands that prisoners and their families be provided immediate clarity in relation to their inclusion of vaccination programme."